I’ve been meaning to write about this topic for a long time, but somehow just never got around to it. I think a lot of people have never really taken the time to think about this. In today’s world, science’s place as the ultimate truth-finder in the modern world is taken as a given. I think this can have some dangerous and foolish consequences.
What does the Bible have to say about worldly wisdom? Here’s just one passage (1 Corinthians 1:18-25):
“19 For it is written,
“I will destroy the wisdom of the wise,
and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.”
20 Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21 For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. 22 For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, 23 but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, 24 but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.”
I was going to highlight or bold certain parts, but I think pretty much all of it sends a strong point across to the reader. Please take the time to digest it on your own, and maybe apply it to what we’re talking about here.
Before people start accusing me of “bashing” on science, let me make something clear. Science has made amazing contributions to this world, and I think that was an intentional part of God’s design when He decided to share dominion of Earth with us. I am all for taking medicines to help cure illnesses, and knowledge of the human body has helped doctors make proper treatments all across the board.
I am also relatively supportive of technology. I could not write this blog without it, nor enjoy many of the creature comforts I take for granted every day. AIR CONDITIONING! (Sorry, just had to get that in there.)
But what I’m talking about is a more specific realm of science; the part that purports to tell us about the universe and its past. I am talking about scientific “facts” such as naturalistic evolution, archeology that seemingly contradicts the Bible, and other such fields. Much of this science is based on theory and speculation rather than repeatable, testable results. I am not talking about science that we see and use on an everyday basis (and therefore can easily find faults with over time). A big bulk of science cannot be contained in a laboratory and “proved,” but this doesn’t stop people from swallowing these “truths” wholesale and allowing them to dictate their beliefs.
Here are three primary reasons I do not place science on the same pedestal as other people.
1. The scientific community is not as truth-driven or open-minded as some people assume.
In a perfect world, the scientific community’s sole purpose would be to find truth regardless of logistics, politics, and greed. But the fact of the matter is, real truth is often not the sole (or even primary) aim. There are often strong competing factors at play that cannot be ignored or brushed off as something on the fringes.
For instance, a lot of science is driven by the need and desire for funding. Where there is money, there the scientists will flock. Can we blame them? They need to pay their bills and make a living just like we do. This often means that they will do the kind of work that interests rich philanthropists or the public eye at the time. This also means results could be tweaked or pushed in a particular direction to keep the money flowing.
As C. W. Adams puts it: “In the real world, research is not the rational pursuit of knowledge many might imagine it to be. Rather, it is a system riddled with competitive forces; greed; profits; the pursuit of personal recognition; and quite simply, survival issues for the individual researcher.”
Furthermore, there is a strong pressure toward conformity in the scientific community to avoid being ostracized by one’s peers. Breaking from the mold requires a strong sense of purpose and conviction, for this is often considered to result in career suicide. C. W. Adams calls this “peer-control.”
“…it must be understood that the range of study, and the ability of these professors to travel outside the box, is also severely limited by the educational institutions that employ them. Maintaining job security in these institutions usually requires some sort of peer control process that research scientists undertake when determining hypotheses. Although speculation is obviously encouraged, the topics and range of speculation are thoroughly restricted.”
Remember that Satan is referred to as the “god of this world,” so wouldn’t you think that he’d do anything to keep the true God out of the picture as much as possible? Do you think he’d push the tides of academia toward biblical truth or away from it? You be the judge. Remember also that true scientific facts never contradict the Bible nor render God obsolete. They are simply observations of His creation at work, and His fingerprints remain on everything. For instance, learning how lightning forms does nothing to disprove the God who put those forces in place to begin with.
2. Science is continually changing and amending prior “certainties.”
Nietzsche once said that “madness is the exception in individuals but the rule in groups.” This aptly describes why so many of the world’s brightest minds can often be in complete agreement on certain “truths” that later end up being completely (and sometimes hilariously) wrong. A scientific consensus is far from a sure thing, as history would teach us.
Carl Sagan once wrote: “Even a succession of professional scientists–including famous astronomers who had made other discoveries that are confirmed and now justly celebrated–can make serious, even profound errors in pattern recognition.”
The bottom line is that just because you throw more people into the mix doesn’t mean that you can prevent blindness. What often happens is a phenomenon that Yale psychologist Irving L. Janis terms as “the groupthink syndrome.” There are three main symptoms of this:
1. Overestimate of the group’s power and morality, including “an unquestioned belief in the group’s inherent morality, inclining the members to ignore the ethical or moral consequences of their actions.” [emphasis added]
2. Closed-mindedness, including a refusal to consider alternative explanations and stereotyped negative views of those who aren’t part of the group’s consensus. The group takes on a “win-lose fighting stance” toward alternative views.
3. Pressure toward uniformity, including “a shared illusion of unanimity concerning judgments conforming to the majority view”; “direct pressure on any member who expresses strong arguments against any of the group’s stereotypes”; and “the emergence of self-appointed mind-guards … who protect the group from adverse information that might shatter their shared complacency about the effectiveness and morality of their decisions.”
Think about some of the failed assumptions and certainties of the past: the world is flat (bogus); the atom is the smallest building block of matter (false); the universe is necessarily infinite (now we know of the Big Bang)…the list goes on and on.
Did you know that there have been a large number of prominent scientists and experts who have published material “proving” that the Bible wasn’t factual? That certain people-groups mentioned in scripture never existed? And usually what happens is that years or decades later, some archeologist will unearth new evidence to validate the claims of the Bible, not those ever-sure experts.
If science ever seems to run counter to what God’s unchanging and eternal Word says, I’m hitching my wagon to the source of truth that has never been proved wrong.
3. Scientists are made up of faulty and biased people just like you and me.
I don’t know about you, but when I think of the word “scientist,” I am not immediately struck with reverence and awe. Respect, sure…many of them work very hard and are gifted with relatively bright minds. But at the basic core, they are people just like us who deal with insecurities, fight against stubbornness and pride, and are shaped by the influences around them.
I suspect that people who look up to scientists as the end-all-be-all have never really known a scientist (or at least one from a “respectable” school). Guess what? They range from academic hermits to clumsy goof balls. Many of them, due to their narrow focus on studying, lack common sense in important areas that some of us take for granted. They are sometimes unsuccessful in love due to a basic misunderstanding of human interaction. Sometimes they are great at it. I would no sooner take advice from someone who works in the sciences than a trusted friend.
(Be honest: don’t we all laugh at Sheldon Cooper from The Big Bang Theory because we can relate to the brilliant-at-something guy who is seriously lacking in other common areas? I alluded to his difficulty in grasping sarcasm in an earlier post.)
The point is, they are no more reliable as finders of the truth than the average reasonable adult. It is easy to see how these people could be swept away in a cool and exciting new idea, rather than putting on the brakes of common sense…especially if being at the forefront of this thinking puts them in a superior intellectual position.
* * *
The point of this post was not to bash on science or scientists, but rather to give a reminder/reality check that man is just man. We are fallible creatures and our systems are bound to be flawed as well. To be sure, we have been given great power and authority over this world, but there is always One who is supremely higher. Let’s not make the mistake of getting so full of ourselves that we miss the fact that we are His creation. The creation cannot be greater than the Creator, can it?
And that very thought was what drove Satan to rebel in the first place…isn’t it funny how it all naturally fits into this world, his current domain?
Students of eschatology know that in the end times, believers will be subject to an immense amount of persecution—the likes of which have never been seen before (and considering the historical severity of persecution—say, under Nero—that’s saying a lot).
It’s hard to imagine something like that happening in a “modern” and “educated” society like America, but it’s rapidly becoming less and less far-fetched.
Consider what’s happening with Chick-fil-A these days. Due to a simple statement of faith and personal beliefs, the masses are calling them bigots, discriminatory, and “hate chicken.” Some even have compared the business and President Dan Cathy to the KKK. It’s not just opinionated social media types, either. Politicians and celebrities are getting in on the Bible-hating fun, even going so far as to threaten zoning their cities to disallow the expansion of Chick-fil-A businesses.
What’s next, a lynching party organized on Facebook and Twitter?
As Moehler writes in his CNN opinion piece, this is an unmistakable sign that religious liberty is at stake here.
Even in the eyes of the worldly and secular, what did Cathy do that was wrong? All he did was state his opinion—which, oh by the way, has been the long-affirmed traditional view throughout human history: that marriage is between a man and a woman. And it’s not like he held a widely viewed press conference in front of the public to say this. He was speaking to a Baptist newspaper and a Christian radio station for goodness sakes.
Dan Cathy has never told his Chick-fil-A restaurants to forbid serving homosexuals, nor do they prohibit hiring such individuals. He was merely affirming his biblical views to a small audience interested in such things. Edit: His belief in coming judgment to America is merely echoing the lessons taught from Sodom and Gomorrah.
The attack on him and his business is far worse than any offense he may have made. People may not realize it, but they are essentially attacking the Bible and the Christian religion altogether. The Bible clearly states that marriage is between a man and a woman, and if you’re going to call that “hateful” and discriminate against those views, then you’re attacking religious freedom. Period.
Sure, there are so-called Christians out there who politely disagree with what the Bible says and go along with society, but these people are sadly mixed up. You can’t disagree with parts of the Bible or take some sections as true or untrue (context considered, of course). You take it whole or nothing at all. Either it was God-inspired or it wasn’t. And no amount of backwards hermeneutics and clever reasoning can steer away from the obvious truth.
This is partly what is meant in Revelation 3 when we are told that it’s better to be hot or cold rather than lukewarm. Take a stand for or against the Bible, but don’t insult God by calling him half-right or obsolete.
Now, imagine where it goes from here. It’s not hard to speculate on the clear direction of the tides.
Support for abortion (gross euphemism: “choice”) has grown steadily over the decades. Eventually, Christians who speak out against the killing of unborn children will be labeled as “anti-feminist” or tragically out-of-touch. (Oops, that’s already the case.)
Gay marriage is already tipping toward the majority. Marriage for all is somehow equated to human liberty and basic rights, and anyone opposed is compared to racists and bigots of the past. Everyone in this country is terrified of repeating mistakes in history (i.e., racial discrimination and slavery), so they fallaciously expand “tolerance” and inclusiveness to moral extremes. Cathy was not attacking any group of people; he was defending an institution.
Radical advances in science show that stem cell research can potentially save millions of lives. Christians who are opposed to using human life as test tube fillers are accused of holding back science and contributing to needless disease and death.
A novel chip implant can do away with all credit card fraud, medical history record issues and delays, and even keep the nation secure from outside terrorists and criminals. Christians who are opposed to getting this chip—for fear that it may be the Mark of the Beast foretold in Revelation—are suddenly outcasts and rebels who have something to hide. They are eyed suspiciously, and op-eds abound on CNN about how these troublesome kooks jeopardize the safety of us all.
The majority starts to grow to deafeningly loud numbers, and the voice of faithful Christians is drowned out. The mainstream’s “patience” with these unsavory citizens breaks and full-fledged persecution ensues, spurred by the liberal media. Most self-proclaimed Christians will fall away, telling themselves (with a modern spin and much rationalization): “Who is like the beast, and who can fight against it?” (Revelation 13:4).
It’s really not that hard to imagine…nor is it as far away as we might hope.
As you all probably know, the Miami Heat are now the NBA champions. LeBron James—one of the most talented players to ever play the game—finally has his first ring after a nine-year career full of “potential,” but never the prize.
A lot of people rooted against the Heat, and for good reason. Two years ago, LeBron James left everyone in the dark about where he was going to play next. He announced a TV special on ESPN called “The Decision,” which was basically nothing more than self-hype and cheesy suspense. Every basketball fan was dying to know where LeBron would be going, and he knew it. He milked his popularity and renown for all it was worth. And then he struck the dagger into Cleveland’s heart on national television by finally announcing that he would be “taking [his] talents to South Beach.” They burned his jersey and their love affair turned into an intense hatred.
As a somewhat impartial viewer, I totally understood his decision from a basketball standpoint. Here he was, a one-man team, leading the Cavaliers to the NBA’s best record. He took them to the finals in 2007, but it was clear that he was not getting the help he needed. LeBron was dominating on the floor, and the rest of his team was basically watching. Even Michael Jordan—the greatest of all time—didn’t win a championship until Scottie Pippen arrived. Kobe couldn’t win without Shaq until Pau Gasol came to L.A.
LeBron’s fall from grace was swift. There’s hardly anything like it to compare to in sports. He went from one of the most respected, touted athletes in the league to the #1 villain. He was booed and mocked regularly. Honestly, it was with good reason. In addition to disrespecting Cleveland, his self-aggrandizing was getting out of hand. This “Welcome Home” party for the Miami Heat was just ridiculous: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e9BqUBYaHlM. The “Big Three” was basically saying how practice was going to be tough against each other, but winning games was the “easy part.” They boldly proclaimed that they would win “not one, not two, not three…[championships].” Do you know how many great, all-time players have never won ONCE? For them to make it sound easy was a slap in the face of all the past legends.
Their first year together, Miami reached the Finals against a somewhat aging Dallas Mavericks team. Here, I must take a detour!
Miami won the championship in 2006 with Shaq and Dwayne Wade (a rising superstar at the time) at the helm. They had fallen behind 0 games to 2—beaten convincingly in those games—and Dallas did something that was brash, even by Mark Cuban’s (the owner) standards. They already began planning the victory parade, and people knew about it. They had gotten full of themselves and wrote Miami off. You know the rest: Miami won the next four games to take the championship. Dallas was devastated and humiliated.
Now in the 2011 finals, the script had been flipped. Miami was the cocky team, and Dallas was the underdog. Dallas, drawing on the pain and experience of the past 5 years, pulled off the upset and defeated the star-laden Heat team. Sports writers everywhere criticized the Heat and picked apart their flaws. As Dwayne Wade later put it, “so much pain, so much hurt, so much embarrassment.” They were put in their place.
This year, they were different. They didn’t make assumptions about their fate as champions, they simply went out and played every game hard. LeBron let go of both his hate for the media (who blasted him for “The Decision”) and his supreme arrogance…he no longer seemed to hold his nickname, “King James,” as dear. This time, drawing upon the deep well reserves of hurt and failure, the Heat triumphed over the Oklahoma City Thunder in a quick 5 games. Afterward, there was no “told you so,” chest-beating, or defiant superiority. There was relief and sincere gratitude for what they had accomplished.
LeBron admitted that he had to hit “rock bottom” before he could become the player he had to be. This makes perfect sense in light of certain passages of scripture:
James 4:6: “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”
Proverbs 3:34: “He mocks proud mockers but gives grace to the humble.”
Proverbs 16:18: “Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.”
Proverbs 29:23: “A man’s pride brings him low, but a man of lowly spirit gains honor.”
Matthew 23:12: “For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.”
And so on, and so on…
Whether Christian or not, we as moral creatures all intuitively know that pride is wrong. It is offensive for reasons that cannot be easily explained by natural law. But it’s fascinating to see the Bible’s words play out repeatedly in our world today.
Homosexuality is a huge issue for debate in our country today, especially after President Obama became the first U.S. Commander-in-Chief in history to officially endorse gay marriage. You hear gay activists praising the president for this risky step, and then you hear those darn old conservatives decrying the collapse of society. Curiously, you also hear certain “evangelicals” chiming in, telling the rest of us how Jesus would have condoned homosexuality. What is the right position for us as Christians, and how do we answer the objections raised by the other side?
First off, I am not going to stir the pot by answering in some unpredictable way. Homosexuality is sin, period. I really don’t see how a person could believe otherwise if they consider the Bible to be the ultimate authority in their lives. Fitting in with culture is not our objective, but following God as the Lord of our lives is. Whether or not our view is popular is irrelevant. If the world around you has convinced you that homosexuality is really OK, then please check your views against the Bible. Don’t assume that just because you are grown up now that you are immune to outside influences and peer/societal pressure.
Leviticus 18:22 puts it plainly: “You shall not lie with a man as with a woman; it is an abomination.”
This brings us to our first argument: “Yea, but that’s in the Old Testament. There’s a lot in there that we don’t follow today, such as animal sacrifices, so why should we follow such an outdated law?”
Well, the reason some of the laws are obsolete is because Jesus Christ came and died on the cross for our sins. He was a perfect, blemish-free sacrifice on our behalf, so there’s no need to continue with lesser substitutionary sacrifices. Our debt is paid if we accept Christ as our Lord and savior. We also do not need to practice other rituals to temporarily appease God in order to approach Him. We as believers are clean in His sight. But these requirements are totally separate from what’s morally right and wrong in God’s eyes, which remains unchanged (even if the penalties can differ). Plus, some of the Old Testament law really was intended only for those Jews.
The New Testament is also clear on homosexuality, so it’s not just an “Old” decree.
Romans 1:26-27 states: ” For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error.”
Likewise, 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 lists “unrighteous” offenders who will not inherit the kingdom of God: “Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.”
As my pastor would say, “Well that’s about as far as we’re going to go in the passage today, so it’s time to ask our most important question: ‘SO WHAT?'”
It’s clear from Romans that homosexuality is dishonorable and contrary to nature. Can you name for me one dishonorable thing that is not considered a sin or offense to God? Also, sin defined at its most basic level is anything apart from the will of God. Doesn’t “contrary to nature” (or the way God intended the world to be) directly imply that homosexuality is sin? Passion for the same sex is sin; it is an error, plain and simple. No amount of modernization or “getting used to the idea” changes the will of God.
The passage in 1 Corinthians above is actually very, very loaded. First of all, if you’ll notice, three out of the first four offenses listed are related to homosexuality. Sexual immorality is defined as any lust (manifest in physical acts or even deliberate thoughts) outside of the confines of marriage, which includes incest, bestiality, homosexuality, fornication, adultery, and homosexuality. Adultery is any sexual act or relation outside of marriage, and since marriage is defined in the Bible as between one man and one woman, homosexuality is always adultery (man-made definitions of “marriage” don’t apply here), just as polygamy is. Then, there is an explicit mention of men who practice homosexuality. Why is the Bible so repetitive here? For the same reason it usually is: for emphasis.
You’ll also notice that other sins are listed as well, such as theft, greed, and drunkenness. This shows us that homosexuality is not alone in separating people from God, and also, this list is NOT meant to be comprehensive. Basically, any perpetual state of sin indicates that someone is damned since they are clearly not being sanctified.
The last part often gets overlooked, but is very significant: “And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.”
This basically tells us that even the earliest church had converts who were formerly thieves, swindlers…and even homosexuals. That’s right, ex-gays existed when Paul wrote this letter to the Corinthians. So all is not lost for people who are struggling with this particular sin.
“But Jesus was all about love, and he never specifically condemned homosexuality as sin.”
Sure, if all you do is do a primitive word search, this is true. But let’s use some common sense.
Mark 7:20-23 reads: “And [Jesus] said,’What comes out of a person is what defiles him. For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.'”
Do I really need to spell it out further? It’s true that there are a lot of specific sins that Jesus did not condemn, such as bestiality (which is also encompassed in “sexual immorality”) or tripping a running child in the mall…maybe he gave our intellect more credit than we deserve.
“Just like heterosexuality, homosexuality is a practice common to all cultures in all ages. It is, therefore, a natural orientation, something common to all civilisations (common in the animal world as well), and it has existed since the primordial beginnings of humankind. The first known record of homosexuals is that of an Egyptian male couple who lived circa 2400 BC … 24 centuries before Christ.”
By that logic, murder is acceptable as a “natural orientation” as well since it has been practiced in all of mankind since Cain and Abel. What is common or uncommon does not determine right or wrong. And no, I’m not equating murder to homosexuality, but I’m just attacking this single point of contention concerning “natural orientation.”
“Homosexuality is genetic; they were born that way. So why would God condemn gays for something they can’t help?”
First of all, the research and science behind this “born that way” conclusion is sketchy at best. While people can be born with a proclivity toward homosexuality—just as some inherit genes that make them struggle more with anger, for instance—it is not set in stone or an unavoidable fate. There are undeniable environmental factors at play, which help determine a person’s sexual orientation. For instance, homosexuality is more common in people who come from broken homes or abusive parents. (What good comes from broken homes and abusive parents anyway? Is homosexuality the lone exception?) If a boy grew up without a strong father figure in the home to help him define his masculinity, he is significantly more likely to become homosexual, and so on…
The bottom line is that homosexuality is NOT comparable to uncontrollable factors such as ethnicity. There are many “ex-gays” around. I know of no ex-Blacks or ex-Asians.
All people, including homosexuals and Christians, are called to fight their sinful desires and urges rather than succumbing to them fully. You could argue that heterosexual men “naturally” want to get in bed with any attractive woman that they see, but why don’t they? Because they learn to control themselves and they also know that there are consequences to their actions. They learn to suppress these desires until they have them under control. A poor person may feel a stronger urge to mug passerbys on the street, and we may even empathize with them, but that doesn’t somehow make it acceptable behavior.
What is natural for a person is not prescriptive behavior. Oftentimes, it is destructive and unhealthy for both the individual and for society.
This is the same kind of mentality that excuses overeating and obesity. Just because people are born with certain genes doesn’t mean that they should just give up all self-control and eat as much as they “feel” like. They may have to work harder than the rest of us, but it’s a worthwhile fight.
“How can homosexuality be a sin if it’s not really hurting anybody? I can understand murder and theft, but why sexual orientation, which is a private, personal preference and nothing more?”
I’ll start with the theological answer, which is that sexual sins are the only sins that God mentions as being against one’s own body.
1 Corinthians 6:18: “Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body.”
This is not necessarily talking about harming our own bodies physically, since overeating or self-injury would also accomplish this. This is talking about defiling our bodies morally and spiritually, as we are supposed to be temples for the Holy Spirit. Our bodies are not our own; God owns us, which is of course an unpopular concept in our secular world.
By living a homosexual lifestyle, people are defiling the temple that God desires to dwell inside. There is a reason why active homosexuals cannot inherit the kingdom of God, and that is because God’s holiness cannot coexist with uncleanliness.
Something needs to be clarified at this point, however. It is true that active homosexuals cannot attain salvation, but that goes for all other sins as well. The bottom line is that a continual state of rebellion against God indicates that we are not truly born again to begin with. If we remain slaves to sin, that is a clear sign that we have yet to receive the Holy Spirit. People who say they are born-again Christians yet continue to lie, steal, cheat, murder…without repentance, improvement, and a noticeable turning away from their old lifestyles are highly suspect.
In the same way, active homosexuals cannot be born-again if they continue living in their sin without a genuine conviction and effort to change their lives. Lack of remorse for sin and rebellion indicates that our hearts are not in the right place; we are still lost. Homosexuality is arguably more dangerous than other specific sins because it is such a pervasive part of a person’s life. It is an entire lifestyle and way of thinking rather than isolated mistakes.
Now, as for whether or not homosexuality harms anyone, there are two points to consider.
First, homosexuality is not as happy-go-lucky and “gay” as we are programmed to think. As a whole, homosexuals have higher levels of promiscuity (and more broken hearts), depression, and suicide. And it’s not all society’s fault. Many ex-gays confess to having struggled with constant feelings of private guilt and enslavement, but they tried to ignore their consciences.
Homosexuals also have significantly shorter expected lifespans. They are highly susceptible to sexually transmitted diseases, such as AIDS. In short, they are potentially harming themselves and their partners in the process of living this lifestyle. Furthermore, even secular research shows the benefits of having a stable familial structure in the house: a father and a mother. Without these dual roles and gender balance, a child is missing out on certain areas of development, whether obvious or not.
Second, the standard for sin (as mentioned earlier) is NOT whether or not it harms someone directly. It is simply a departure from God’s will, as homosexuality clearly is.
Leviticus 18:22 tells us that homosexuality is an abomination, and it happens to be couched between two other abhorrent sins: child sacrifices and bestiality. Let’s discuss the latter.
Imagine a person who has been hurt by his peers many times in his life, and he decides one day that he hates humankind. He starts to develop a relationship with a farm animal, who has always appreciated him and loves him. He decides to “marry” this animal and consummate the relationship. (This is not quite as outlandish as you may think: http://articles.nydailynews.com/2010-12-02/news/27083045_1_pet-dog-wedding-honey.)
Neither the man nor the animal seem to mind very much, and somehow neither one develops any illnesses. No harm, no foul, right?
Doesn’t something deep down inside of you morally object to this union? No one is being “hurt” directly, but somehow we instinctively know that this relationship is wrong. It is not just wrong because they cannot procreate and populate the earth. We know it at a more fundamental level. Practicality is not the measure by which we judge this situation. The moral code that God implanted in all of us is setting off alarms.
Now, imagine that somehow, this sort of union starts to become more and more common in the world, perhaps because the human population has largely died off due to war and famine. It starts out taboo, but increasingly, people get used to the idea and sight of these relationships. Maybe they even make a hit TV show about it. Eventually, it becomes lawful and we’re told not to judge these people who have a natural desire for animals. We become calloused and forget why it was wrong in the first place. The “alarms” grow more and more muffled until it is practically inaudible to us.
Does this change the truth? Has wrong suddenly turned into right? No, of course not. The problem would be with us in this situation, not with the original moral law.
I realize this is almost a ridiculous example, and I would concede that bestiality seems to be a step deeper in perversion, but the basic idea is the same. It’s really just a matter of degrees. All it takes is a gradual accumulation of compromises and concessions, and given enough time, the moral fabric of society starts to tear in a big way. It’s like entropy.
If there is a God of the universe who declares truth and moral right, then those things are constant no matter what the tides of culture dictate.
“Obama cites the ‘Golden Rule’ as grounds for legalizing same-sex marriage.”
Wow, talk about completely botching biblical interpretation. President Obama is referring to Matthew 7:12 where Jesus is telling us to treat others as we would like to be treated. In other words, if we were thirsty and would want people to give us water, then we should likewise offer water to someone in thirst. We should be mindful and thoughtful toward other people, treating them with love. And supposedly, if we would want to get married, we should allow homosexuals to get married to each other.
But Jesus is telling us to do good, not legalize wrong. This passage is not telling us to overlook sin and condone the very things that God calls an “abomination.” Legalizing gay marriage is effectively saying that homosexual relations are OK, and why in the world would Jesus give us a “rule” to disobey his other rules? This is just dumb, I’m sorry, and it serves as a great example of how having a Harvard education and high IQ does nothing to help in spiritual matters if you are sufficiently blinded by the world or pride.
If I were a thief, I would want the employees of a bank to ignore me as I snuck out with piles of money in my bag, but that doesn’t mean they should; nor should I if the roles were reversed. If I had committed a murder, I would want the cops to understand that the victim made me really, really mad and then let me go…but they wouldn’t and shouldn’t.
You get the point.
The bottom line is that homosexuality is clearly a sin, and living an active homosexual lifestyle without repentance will lead to damnation. It is not necessarily “worse” than other sins, which can also spell doom for a person, but it is especially dangerous due to its sexual nature and pervasiveness in a person’s daily life.
There is definitely hope, as demonstrated by the many people who have turned away from this sin and have come to Christ. Yes, some of the struggles may remain, just as all believers continue to fight against their old nature to varying degrees. (Never underestimate the power of Satan’s deception or the human capability to rationalize anything under the sun.) But with the help of the Holy Spirit, we will continue in the process of sanctification until we receive our glorified bodies, apart from the struggles of the flesh.
We in the church need to show love to homosexuals around us by praying for them and being kind to them as a brother or sister in need. But showing “love” is not ignoring their paths to destruction and giving them false hope. You wouldn’t “love” someone by allowing them to destroy themselves, but rather tactfully—and firmly—pointing them in the right direction. Rebuke may be necessary, and we need to be careful not to do it in a hateful and judgmental way.
Two posts in two days…what is going on? Well, yesterday put a little wind in my sails, and I wanted to keep some momentum going. Plus, I already had this post written inside of my head, so I wanted to get it out.
What I am about to share with you all is a biblical interpretation technique that is so powerful, it will aid you for the rest of your life. It is so profound, no aspiring scholar can do without it. If skeptics picked up this one simple tool, many of us would be spared their bad arguments. It is a springboard to figuring out many of the Bible’s puzzling passages.
Am I exaggerating a bit? Sure. I’m being a little facetious. But honestly, this patented (not really) technique of mine will prove useful in pointing you in the right direction.
It is simply this: Assume Basic Competence (ABC) of the Jews. That’s it. (It also works great in tandem with another secret technique, UCS: Use Common Sense.) Why is this important and how do we apply this technique? By assuming that the Jews behind 65 of the 66 books of the Bible were not complete morons, that’s how. Make the basic assumption that the Jewish people, especially in biblical times, took their theology seriously. They grew up studying and discussing theology throughout their lifetimes, and they pretty much had all of the biblical stories memorized to the detail, especially during the times of oral tradition. It was not uncommon, for example, for young Jewish boys to memorize the entire Torah word-for-word. In short, whether you believe the Bible is God-breathed or not, at least give the Jews credit for knowing their own theology.
Let’s apply this technique to the following commonly misinterpreted passage. As I mentioned in my previous post, this is an absolute favorite of anti-religious people everywhere.
Judges 1:19: “The LORD was with the men of Judah. They took possession of the hill country, but they were unable to drive the people from the plains, because they had iron chariots.”
Wait, what? An army powered by God Almighty lost the battle because of the superior power of iron chariots, a man-made invention?
Hold yer horses! Let’s assume the Jewish person responsible for recording these events was not a complete neophyte, and if he were, someone would have corrected him before his book went to print, so to speak. Let’s assume that he grew up hearing the widely told stories of Moses crossing the Red Sea, God destroying Pharaoh’s army (which included chariots), or even God being the creator of the entire universe. Is that a fair assumption to make?
Let’s go even further (I know, I’m getting crazy here) and assume that the writer of “Judges” did not have a complete memory meltdown when he later wrote three chapters later that the Jews were able to triumph over an army of iron chariots (see Judges 4:13-15).
So what is a possible explanation here? Well, we don’t really need to get technical just yet. Let us use our reasoning skills and even personal experience to try to come up with a preliminary solution. From the passage, it is clear that God was with the men of Judah. That’s a good thing for sure. But what could have possibly contributed to their defeat? Could it have been a lack of faith and dependence on God? Whenever you see God commanding His people to go head-on into overwhelming odds, they see victory IF they obey with conviction. Apparently, these Jews forgot the mighty God that they served and instead thought to themselves, “This is impossible, how could we possibly defeat these iron chariots?”
With this kind of doubt thrown in the face of God, it’s no wonder they were not given victory. We do the same thing every day. True believers have the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, but we still try to do things our own way, which is why we still sin. We sometimes feel God calling us to do something or pulling us one way, but we decide to calculate and plan in our own wisdom. What ends up happening is that we crash and burn, and we wonder why God let such calamity fall upon us. It’s due to a lack of obedience and faith. We are now empowered to do right, but we often choose to do wrong because of our disobedience. It is our own failure, not God’s.
The same thing apparently happened here in chapter 1. The Jews had won previous battles and instead of thanking God, they probably attributed their victories to their own might. When it came to iron chariots, however, they were completely stricken with fear because they could no longer rely on their own strength. Their reliance on God had gotten rusty, which contributed directly to their defeat.
That wasn’t so hard was it? By giving even the slightest bit of credit to the biblical authors, it pushed us in the right direction to draw some reasonable conclusions.
Now, let’s go a little deeper.
The Book of Judges is written with a general circular pattern that goes like this:
1) The Jews rely on God and achieve great victories;
2) The Jews start to forget about God and start crumbling to the insistent pressure from their enemies;
3) God chooses a great prophet or “judge” to wake the Jewish people up and turn them back to obedience and faith; and
4) Go back to #1, rinse and repeat (but each time, God starts to lose patience and increasingly delays His deliverance).
With this knowledge in hand, we might notice that the first 18 verses or so constitute step #1 above. The Jews seem to be winning every battle handily. The verse where they failed to defeat the iron chariots, however, is the start of step #2. We now see some victories, some failures—we start to see some chinks in the armor.
There is also a literary device being employed here that could prove very enlightening. Let me start by saying that everyone should acknowledge that the Bible is written with all kinds of different styles—sometimes through very straightforward prose (such as genealogies or historical facts being retold), poetry, allegory, and other literary styles that facilitate storytelling.
In the case of Judges 1:19, the author is employing a perspectival device that views the story from the eyes of the characters involved; namely, the men of Judah. (This literary feature was more common in ancient literature, but it’s almost nonexistent today.) Because they themselves thought it was impossible to defeat iron chariots, the author recorded that as the reason for their defeat. They viewed it as a match-up between Jewish military strength and the unstoppable power of iron chariots. They should have seen it as God > everything.
As mentioned earlier, just a few chapters later, the Jews are able to defeat an army of iron chariots. What was the difference this time? No, the author did not have a brain fart previously—ABC. What happened was that God sent a great prophetess, Deborah, to wake the people up (remember, step #3). They finally obeyed God fully—in their hearts and in their actions—and were victorious (back to step #1). At least for a while.
(Quick note: I’ve been somewhat overwhelmed these days with work, personal life, and seminary, as you may have noticed. This upcoming summer term, I am actually lightening my academic load so that I can regain my balance and focus more on my spiritual life rather than scrambling to finish papers, etc. Hopefully, that will leave me with more time and energy. *Edited 5/17/12 for a little more precision.)
Without further ado, let’s get started with this series!
1) Jeremiah 29:11: “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
The first passage we will examine demonstrates one of the common reasons for misinterpreting the Bible. In a word: CONTEXT.
People seem to love this verse because it has a very positive, encouraging feel to it. Clearly, God wants us as His children to prosper and do well in this life, right? Well, yes and no. Of course, God loves us and wants the best for each one of us. The problem with this interpretation, however, is at least two-fold.
First, while God does have our best interest at heart, His plan might be different from our definition of “prosper”-ing. While God does sometimes bless his children with worldly wealth and success, He is far more concerned with the big picture—that being eternity. Think about it, if God had a choice between granting you riches on this earth or putting you in the best position spiritually to attain eternal life (and to receive far greater riches in heaven), wouldn’t He choose the latter out of His love and wisdom? Sometimes these things are mutually exclusive. Too often, riches right now spoil people and ruin them spiritually. It generally leads to far less dependence on God, a lack of humility, and materialism. Becoming complacent due to wealth is a curse, not a blessing. God knows better than we do whether or not we can handle this form of prosperity. Hardships can be a blessing in disguise if it refines our character and turns us into better people.
Second, many things in the Bible are not meant to be blanket statements that are true in every situation. In other words, we need to consider context. Where does this verse come from? It comes from Jeremiah during the time of the first great Jewish exile. The Jews had lost their land—the very land God had given them as “The Promised Land”—due to serious disobedience over generations. They were dejected and hopeless with enemies on every side. While these people needed to be taught a lesson and scared back into dependence on God, being the empathetic father that He is, God also wanted to give them hope for their future. It wasn’t too much longer after this that the Jews were allowed to return to their land (unexpectedly thanks to the pagan, Cyrus the Great), setting the stage for the savior himself, Jesus Christ, to be brought to mankind.
Bottom line: This promise was made specifically to the Jewish people.
*Special note: If this promise can be considered prophetic, notice that it has had at least two fulfillments so far in history–one near, one far. While the Jews had gotten their land back for a time, they again lost it in 70 A.D. when the temple was destroyed, persecution ensued, and the Great Diaspora happened. The Jews did not return to their land until almost 1,900 years later, but they now enjoy a great deal of success and prosperity—just look at a list of Hollywood actors, producers, or company CEOs. The nation of Israel has grown by leaps and bounds in just a few short decades. While an enormous amount of tribulation is about to fall upon the Jewish people once again, in the end, their capital city (Jerusalem) will become the focal point of God’s future kingdom on earth.
The unfortunate thing about misinterpreting this verse is that it gives people a false and distorted hope. The same thing goes for the “Prosperity Gospel” going around these days. This verse is not ensuring success for your business! People start expecting that becoming a believer and serving in the church will open the gates to God’s riches, worldly success, and strong health. Relationships and overall happiness should flourish! When things don’t go their way, however, they grow bitter and disappointed with God. Even worse, their faulty logic surmises that God must not exist since an omniscient being could never be wrong in making promises.
Think about it: Jeremiah preceded the New Testament, and we have abundant examples of people who followed Jesus only to endure extreme hardship and pain. All but one of the disciples were martyred. Paul was stricken with a “thorn in the flesh” (a persistent physical ailment) and went from prison to prison being severely beaten nearly to death. Does this sound like our typical view of “prosperity”? Paul even begged God three times to take away his “thorn,” which God declined. The apostle’s mission and eternal destiny were too important to risk letting comfort and pride set in. God’s approach worked (of course), and Paul succeeded in spreading the gospel around much of the civilized world. Christianity would not be where it is today without him and the ordeals he overcame. Imagine if he had given up and pouted at God! I bet Paul is smiling right now, knowing that it was all well worth it. Any temporary suffering has probably long been forgotten.
2) Genesis 9:20-27 tells the story of how Noah (post-flood) had gotten drunk and passed out naked in his tent. (By the way, this is descriptive, not prescriptive; i.e., just because Noah did it doesn’t make it good.) One of his sons, Ham, came into the tent and here is what transpired:
Ham, the father of Canaan, saw the nakedness of his father and told his two brothers outside. Then Shem and Japheth took a garment, laid it on both their shoulders, and walked backward and covered the nakedness of their father. Their faces were turned backward, and they did not see their father’s nakedness. When Noah awoke from his wine and knew what his youngest son had done to him, he said, “Cursed be Canaan; a servant of servants shall he be to his brothers.”
This passage demonstrates how insufficient knowledge of history or Hebrew could lead to confusion or shallow interpretation.
Let’s start with the most surface-level interpretation. It might be easy to think that Ham accidentally or innocently wandered into the tent—perhaps to ask his father a question—only to be shocked at what he saw. Rattled, he walked out and told his older brothers who would know what to do. And yet, Noah is furious and curses Ham’s son, Canaan, who wasn’t even involved in the situation!
How is it fair to punish Ham (and his son) for a simple mistake like this? Even if Ham had thought it was funny that his father was naked, or simply did not have the consideration to immediately cover him, what’s the big deal? People disrespect their parents all the time, and they don’t receive serious punishment, let alone curses on their offspring. Sure it’s wrong, but isn’t this an overreaction by Noah?
Well, we need to dig deeper. The key word here is a basic one: “saw.” Reading an English translation, whether the NIV or ESV, does not capture the entirety of the text’s meaning. We have to refer to the Hebrew to better understand the story.
In Hebrew, the word we translate as “saw” in this verse actually implies seeing or gazing upon something with pleasure, particularly in a sexual sense. What Ham did was not accidentally stumble into a tent and shield his eyes out of shock, but rather he probably stood there and soaked in the sight. He relished seeing his naked father. Not only was this a disturbing act of disrespect toward his father, but it was also incestuous and homosexual in nature. He probably told his brothers afterward so that they could share in his delight. We might also be able to infer some other details, but at this point, don’t we already have enough?
To further bolster these facts, we also have a key clue in Ham’s son, Canaan. Don’t we recognize that name somehow? Sure, he and his descendants would later constitute some of the Jews’ greatest enemies, the Canaanites. Biblical scholars and secular historians both agree that these were a group of people who practiced all kinds of wicked rituals. They were not only sexually immoral (rampant homosexuality and orgies), but they also committed child sacrifices and worshiped false gods like Baal. Clearly, there was something in the line of Ham that was deeply corrupt. This was no innocent man caught in an unlucky situation.
*Another sidenote: Why isn’t this passage translated better in our English language Bibles? Doesn’t this point to a weakness in God’s Word? Well, ideally, reading this passage should go in one of two ways: 1) Because we trust God (with a child-like faith), we know that He is fair even when we don’t fully understand; or 2) something seems off to us, so we go and research this passage, learning that there is more than meets the eye.
Of course, what often happens is someone with a doubting heart reads this and thinks he/she understands it just fine. “God is unjust and wildly unpredictable.” In a sense, that person is elevating his or her moral standards and code above that of the ultimate judge, God the Creator. If that person could have the right heart (scenario #1) or be less sloppy and do some disciplined research (scenario #2), this kind of misinformed assessment could be avoided.
Furthermore, think about the issues that translators faced when tackling this passage. This is Genesis 9, near the beginning of the Bible. This is a book that even children read. Is it worth it to make kids start thinking about this kind of sin at that young age? Couldn’t it possibly plant some bad ideas or make things awkward with their own fathers? I know if I read something like that before I was ready, I would have been a little scarred and disgusted. Full and open disclosure is not always the wisest idea, and withholding some information is not always a weakness. We are given enough information to learn about God and be edified, but not be sickened with excessive details.
* * * * *
Well, that’s it for now. I’m trying to avoid making these posts too long and “epic” because it makes it difficult to even get started when I’m pressed for time. I really can’t help myself sometimes.
I hope to update more frequently since I have fewer excuses to be tired. With my job stabilizing and the lighter course load (and our new puppy settling in), I should be good to go most weeks.
Next time, we’ll look at one of the favorite passages that anti-religious skeptics love to mock. Hopefully, you’ll see again just how shallow their interpretation is and how the slightest bit of an open mind might help them to realize their error.
It’s been weighing on my heart these days to start a “series” of sorts called “Misinterpreting Scripture” (I know, clever). My goal is to take a look into various passages of the Bible that are often misinterpreted and/or mocked in order to gain more clarity on what God is actually telling us.
When people misinterpret scripture, it’s usually due to one or more of the following reasons:
– taking verses out of biblical context without knowing the big picture
– reading on the surface, rather than thinking things through and using some basic logic and common sense
– not taking into account pertinent historical or cultural information
– distorting the message by infusing the Word with our own expectations
– not knowing what the original Hebrew or Greek says (i.e., the inherent weaknesses of translation)
Motives for these failures range from simple ignorance to deliberately seeking out passages that seem outdated and outlandish today to mock the Christian faith.
The more I learn about the Bible—and there are always more layers to uncover—the more I am amazed at its depth and complexity. I know I say this a lot, but it strikes me as sheer arrogance and stupidity whenever someone thinks they’ve found some gaping theological hole through their own brilliance or “reason.” If you’re not willing to take faith in what the Bible says, at least give centuries of serious scholars some credit. People have been poring over the pages of the Bible more intensely than any other work in history. You are not so special that you’ve found something that others have not (and have already solved for the most part).
And for those who have faith in the Bible, please know that it is not as simple or straightforward as a history book or instruction manual. You must stay engaged intellectually—you cannot check your brain at the door! We are to love the Lord our God not with just our hearts but also with our minds. But most of all, we must be in tune spiritually. Without the voice of the Holy Spirit, we cannot hope to understand what God is actually trying to tell us.
“The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.” 1 Corinthians 2:14. How true these words are!